THURSDAY, MAY 4, 2023
A look at the Wallace rules: As we noted yesterday afternoon, Diogenes is widely said to have conducted a search—a search for one honest man (sic).
As we further noted, House Democrats may soon be conducting a search for at least five!
In Walker Percy's first novel, The Moviegoer, Binx Bolling is explicitly said to be conducting a somewhat different search. The leading authority on the widely acclaimed novel offers a bit of background:
The Moviegoer tells the story of Jack "Binx" Bolling, a young stock-broker in postwar New Orleans. The decline of tradition in the Southern United States, the problems of his family and his traumatic experiences in the Korean War have left him alienated from his own life. He daydreams constantly, has trouble engaging in lasting relationships, and finds more meaning and immediacy in cinema and literature than in his own routine life.
The loose plot of the novel follows the Moviegoer himself, Binx Bolling, in desperate need of spiritual redemption. At Mardi Gras, he breaks out of his caged everyday life and launches himself on a journey, a quest, in a "search" for God.
That too is a type of a search, and the term is explicitly used. The leading authority quotes this passage from the novel, with Bolling serving as narrator:
"What is the nature of the search?" you ask. Really it is very simple; at least for a fellow like me. So simple that it is easily overlooked. The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life.
Diogenes conducted one type of search. Binx Bolling conducted another.
Over the weekend, we conducted a time-wasting search of our own. We conducted a highly tedious, time-wasting search for the truth about certain factual matters.
The exciting claims in question had been advanced by Joe Scarborough last Friday morning, April 28. He'd advanced his (highly familiar) claims in a series of screeds as two sidekicks, four more guests and his silent co-host looked on.
We wasted a lot of time last weekend as we conducted our search. That said, we've been involved in such wastes of time for something like three decades now. In this case, the search concerned these claims:
On Thursday, April 27, did defense attorney Joe Tacopina "scream and yell" at E. Jean Carroll, "time and time again," to the point where Judge Lewis Kaplan "repeatedly had to call him off?"
Presumably, it would have been wrong if Tacopina had done that. But did those things actually happen?
In the course of our timewasting search, we found no source which said any such thing. For example, in that morning's Washington Post, three reporters said this:
JACOBS ET AL (4/28/23): During sometimes fraught cross-examination on Thursday, Tacopina quizzed Carroll about her account, including her inability to remember the specific date the alleged attack occurred or why she called a friend afterward, rather than the police.
Carroll and Tacopina verbally sparred at times during his questioning, which lasted about three hours. She appeared to grow irritated at some moments, including when the attorney asked why Carroll did not scream when Trump allegedly assaulted her.
“One of the reasons women don’t come forward is because they’re always asked, ‘Why didn’t you scream?’” Carroll said. “Some women scream, some women don’t. It keeps women silent.”
After more back-and-forth with Tacopina, Carroll responded with audible frustration: “He raped me whether I screamed or not!”
The pair had "verbally sparred at times." That said, there was no mention of screaming and yelling. That passage was about as far as the Post's report went.
In the corresponding news report in the New York Times, the exchanges between Tacopina and Carroll were said to have been "curt but civil." In the corresponding reports by the Associated Press and by NBC News itself, there was no mention of the screaming and yelling which were said to have occasioned the judge's frequent rebukes.
We shopped elsewhere, looking for evidence. We found no reports of the screaming and yelling which had Joe so upset.
We wasted a lot of time last weekend conducting this tedious search. That said, we've repeatedly had our time burned away in this manner since early 1998.
In effect, we've been conducting a search for one or more reliable journalists. Diogenes, come on down!
We feel sure that Nicolle Wallace is a good, decent person off-camera. We're forced to say that we don't regard her, on balance, as a reliable "cable news" journalist.
As an example of what we mean, let's recall what she said in June 2019, back when the world was still young.
On the Deadline: White House program in question, Wallace made a factual statement which, on its face, seemed to be flatly inaccurate, or at least highly misleading.
("Robert Mueller found that Donald Trump committed crimes, that he committed ten acts of obstruction of justice.")
In fact, the Mueller Report had explicitly said this: "This report does not conclude that the President committed a crime." Repeatedly, Wallace would make the one highly pleasing statement while failing to mention the other.
Breaking every rule in the book, Vance now seemed to challenge what Wallace just said! This is never done on cable, but Vance may not have known that.
Amazingly, Vance challenged Wallace's statement. Below, you see Wallace's somewhat jumbled rejoinder:
WALLACE (6/19/19): I'm going to say something that is going to keep me off Twitter for a week.
When Democrats lose elections, this is why. I mean, what Joyce just said, I'm sure, is accurate. [Robert Mueller] didn't find ten—
But the opposite of "I can't say crimes weren't committed" is, to a political communicator, "Crimes were committed." And if Democrats don't have the you-know-whats to assert that and let people, let the president's lawyers, go out and say, "Well, he found ten instances where the nexus between an occurrence and a proceeding were not exactly met, but—"
I mean, let Trump explain that a crime wasn't committed in the obstruction section!
For a fuller account of the matter at hand, you can just click here. That said, this is what Wallace had basically said:
Instantly, Wallace had agreed with what Vance had said. Instantly, she said she was sure that Vance's statement was accurate.
That said, so what? As "a political communicator," she seemed to say that she preferred to make statements which aren't accurate, thereby forcing her opponent to spend their time denying the inaccurate claims.
In these ways, Wallace had served George W. Bush for years, miring us in a war in Iraq and promoting gay marriage bans.
For the record, many people in our blue tribe agree with Wallace's general view. They say it's OK to fight fire with fire in the way she outlined.
Who cares if our statements are incorrect? In this view, we Democrats lose elections when we make accurate statements!
People can judge this matter as they choose, but we don't regard Wallace as a reliable narrator. In our view, her thumbs are routinely on the scales—and though she's always been a brilliant spokesperson, she simply isn't all that great as an analyst.
In our view, she tends to play it fast and loose. Consider what happened on Deadline: White House last Friday afternoon.
So typical! The Washington Post's Shayna Jacobs appeared as a guest on the show. Jacobs had been the lead reporter in the Washington Post's report that very morning. (See excerpt above.)
Jacobs had been in the courtroom the day before, amid all the screaming and yelling. Having said that, so typical!
As Wallace interviewed Jacobs, she asked no questions about Tacopina's demeanor or behavior. Then, with Jacobs safely dispatched, she engaged in this instant exchange with one of MSNBC's legal analysts:
WALLACE (4/28/23): Barbara McQuade, I want to bring you in. And I want to ask you:
What is the strategy when someone like Joe Tacopina is acting so combative with a victim who's alleging that she's been raped by his client? Why do that? It seems like a surefire way to engender sympathy from the jury and also suggest that there's not much else there if the strategy is to bully her on the stand.
MCQUADE: Yeah. I think this goes against everything I've ever been taught as a lawyer, which is not to revictimize a victim. Not only might it be ineffective, but the jury's going to hate you...
Wallace hadn't been present in the courtroom the previous day. McQuade was reporting from her home site in Michigan.
Even worse, legal analyst Lisa Rubin had told Wallace on the previous day that Tacopina had been "gentler" than anyone expected in his cross-examination of Carroll. Statements like Rubin's do very little to advance preferred Storyline.
Shayna Jacobs had been present in the courtroom the previous day. Wallace could have sought her assessment of Tacopina's behavior.
Instead, she waited till Jacobs was gone, then offered her own characterization of the conduct she hadn't observed. She said that Tacopina had "acted so combative" as he "bullied" Carroll—and as is the reliable norm on cable TV, McQuade quickly seemed to agree.
Following Wallace's lead, McQuade said that Tacopina had "revictimized a victim." Of course, this assumes the accuracy of the very claim which Tacopina's client denies.
Briefly, can we talk? As Tacopina said in his opening statement, it's the position of his client that E. Jean Carroll isn't a victim—that she's just making it up.
That doesn't seem very likely to us. For starters, Tacopina's client is, at least in our view, one of the least reliable sources in public life today.
(Tens of millions of people disagree with that general view. Some such people may be on the jury in the ongoing trial.)
In our view, Carroll and her two corroborating witnesses are much more reliable than is Donald J. Trump. That said, there's also the miserable way our tribe's cable channel now delivers the news—presenting the scripts and Storylines we like, while failing to offer real discourse.
Back in 2019, Joyce Vance seemed to fall into line! One week after Wallace's rebuke, she appeared on a different MSNBC show—and now, she was making the factual claim she had challenged just one week before!
This is the way the game is now played. We don't think it's helpful or constructive, though some people disagree.
Diogenes searched for one honest man (sic). House Dems need to find at least five.
At this site, we've conducted a series of time-wasting searches since March 1998. Tomorrow, let us briefly entertain you with two of the most gong-worthy confessions we've ever seen on TV.
I'm sure that's accurate, Wallace once said. But why would I want to say so?
Tomorrow: Tomorrow, we have comic relief.
Comically, Phang and Vance confess. Also, though, the road to the future not taken.